2017 Young Architects Award Recipient
Emerging talent deserves recognition. The AIA Young Architects Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.
Leveraging his role as an architect to influence many facets of the profession, Kurt Neiswender, AIA, is driven by the philosophy that architects should be leaders in advancing civilization. An advocate and ambassador for architecture, he is deeply committed to his community and has used his position to bring worldwide attention to critical issues.
Neiswender is a project architect at Sedgewick & Ferweda Architects in Flint, Mich., where he is guided by his design philosophy of seeking equitable solutions to create spaces that are inseparable from the existing urban fabric.
For projects like the Satori Passive House, a custom net zero energy cabin on Lake Michigan in the state’s Upper Peninsula, Neiswender worked within the tenets of passive house design to ensure the clients’ energy independence. The house, which takes its name from the Japanese word for “sudden enlightenment,” faces south to take full advantage of the sun. The siting, coupled with SIP panels with R-values of 58 in the walls and 90 in the roof, ensures that the house requires very little energy. A roof-mounted solar array even nudges it into net positive energy territory. Clad in weathered steel and aged wood, it reflects the former mining towns of the area while not detracting from the landscape.
Dedicated to service, Neiswender continually gives back to the city of Flint. He’s worked tirelessly to bring attention to its water crisis, founding Project FORA in 2014 as a way to provide design services to those who need them because of their economic circumstances. As a nonprofit organization, Project FORA aids some of the most distressed and blighted areas of Flint and, through the positive working relationship Neiswender has developed, supports the efforts of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity and the Genesee County Land Bank Authority.
As an adjunct faculty member of the University of Michigan-Flint, which does not have an architecture program, Neiswender integrates architecture and urban design into the courses he teaches for both the university’s Earth and Resource Science Department and its Art and Art History Department. Last winter, in his community engagement studio course, he paired students with Flint community members and nonprofits to apply design thinking to solve a number of community needs. The practical experiences led to high-caliber solutions that were later implemented for improving public spaces.
Active in the small but tight-knit AIA Flint, Neiswender has held a number of leadership positions, most recently vice president. He’s guided the membership, a mix of lifetime residents and new professionals, to promote the value of design through initiatives such as Park(ing) Day. As chair of the design committee for Flint’s version of the event, he coordinated, designed, and constructed the Chapter’s contribution. With a very tight budget, he employed found, donated, and recycled materials to create temporary installations that would later receive a design award from the Chapter.
Selflessness and a love of architecture is what fuels much of Neiswender’s work, and his passion for his community is ensuring its resilience and leading its resurgence.